Anti-'emo' anger stirs call for diversity

Following attacks on the youth subculture, organizers hope to encourage Mexican teenagers to be themselves.

Asel Llana Ugalde/Special to the Christian Science Monitor
Emo kids: Most girls wear classic dresses, but Amapola Jefkins (l.), from Iztacalco, opts for extra eyeliner and a black dress. She’s part of the “emo” subculture in Mexico. Following attacks in March, online contests and quinceañeras have emphasized a common theme: being yourself.

For this year's mass quinceañera, the invitation depicted a selection of paper doll cutouts. Outfits included a flowery pink gown with a tiara, a Goth dress with combat boots, and tight black jeans with a pink-and-black-striped shirt.

That last cutout, which represents the "emo" subculture, is particularly important this year, says Mexico City Youth Institute director Javier Hidalgo, because of a wave of violence against "emo" teens. The teens are identified by their tight black jeans and thick eyeliner and their stereotypes as misfits.

In March, in the nearby city of Queretaro, hundreds of so-called "anti-emos" descended on a public square yelling "Kill the emos!" The attack was filmed on cellphone cameras and quickly aired on YouTube, fueling copycat attacks in other Mexican cities.

Like other youth movements, like punks and Goths, "emos" have taken root in Mexico by way of the Internet and are influenced by movies and music spread around the world. But they are not always welcome here, with more conservative groups in society labeling them androgynous, homosexual, or derivative of the punk culture.

Since the attacks last month, the Youth Institute has offered a series of events and concerts, aimed at addressing diversity and opening a space for dialogue to make all youths feel welcome, "emo" or not. The words across the quinceañera invitation read: "I am how I want to be."

In July, they will be holding a contest, in which youths will make videos and design fliers to illustrate the theme, "The liberty to be who you are." All of it will take place across the Internet, on websites like YouTube and MySpace.

To hold the contest on the Internet was a direct response to the way that the "emo" attacks in Mexico had been fueled. "This is our retort to intolerance," says Mr. Hidalgo.

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